Friday, 28 February 2014

Why not to excite your dog at 11pm

I felt extremely proud on Wednesday evening.  Prouder than I've felt in a while.  I drove home at 10pm with a huge smile on my face and Caesar staring out of the boot window, fascinated by the evening lights illuminating the dark road.  

Staying 'down' is not Caesar's forte!
Perhaps my positive energy was contagious because Caesar bounded into the house with unusual gusto.  He skidded into the lounge, banging into the television cabinet as he did, and screeched to a halt in front of Damien where he attempted to say "I'm very proud of myself!" but it came out as "Yow yow yow!" as usual.  After telling Damien the results of that evening's training class competition and explaining how proud I had been of Caesar who had completed a 2 minute lie down and stay without many problems at all, I stepped into the kitchen for a late night snack.  Caesar followed as usual and, when I stopped, his ears went back and he began scampering madly up and down the hall and kitchen.

Caesar, mid 'Scoob'!
This isn't the first time he's done this and we've fondly come to know these moments as "doing a Scoob!" but tonight he was particularly full of it.  Damien and I laughed as he skittered forward and backward looking as if he were being chased by a gang of super villains.  Then, when he stopped for a second, Damien said "Boo!" and started him all over again.  This was hilarious as he bowled around running circles around us.  

After some time, Caesar appeared to have ran off this unusual night time energy and I decided to retire to bed.  Turning on the heel of my trainers, I made my way to the stairs and placed my foot on the first when I heard the noise of skittering paws I barely had time to turn around and I was on the floor.  Caesar had charged into my ankle in full on Scooby Doo mode and my whole leg had given way twisting my ankle painfully to one side.  

Then, realising he'd done wrong, he charged up the stairs and I didn't see him until the next morning.  Where was he?  Where do you think....?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Another check point on the road of life...

Good mood: awwww
It dawned on me today that it's been a while since I have written.  I could make all sorts of excuses as to why; heavy work load, new ventures, illness and, within the last week, it would all be true.  It's not that Caesar hasn't done anything recently; he has.  On one of his latest ventures, he broke into my sewing room, climbed on the table (while I was sewing) and knocked everything flying.  Later that day, I went out and returned to find that he'd been in there again doing the same thing.  Except this time, he had knocked everything all over the floor.  This included 300 buttons which I then needed to pick up one-by-one.

Mad mood: Arghhhh
The truth is; I've been attempting to reach a mini-target that I had set myself; to reach the end of my book "Saving Caesar."  It's all OK writing a book but reading it is something different.  Some days, I will find that I like one way of saying something and others, I find that I want to say it completely differently.  Some days, I'm in a humorous mood and others, I'm feeling nostalgic and sentimental.  Sometimes, my mood depends on Caesars;  one day I might want to write him as a lost soul in need of guidance and other times as a nightmarish nuisance sent by some unseen power to test everything I thought I knew about my own levels of patience and sanity.  This makes proof reading your own writing equally hard as the shifts in mood and attitude stand out from time to time.

Also, it's fun to write something and record all of your memories and experiences on a page but to read it again and again is not so fun.

Tonight, I read the last chapter - the final chapter of my first draft.  I have made notes for myself to improve the book and there is certainly a lot to do before I attempt to take my writing any further.  But, as I closed the word document for the first time in weeks, something occurred to me.  In a sense, I don't mind if this book never makes it beyond my computer.  I'd be sad of course because it would mean that this hard work and time would never be witnessed by anyone other than me.  However, I would always have a record for myself and for my family of this special dog and how he turned our lives and our house upside down.  I think, at the end of the day, that's probably more important.

Monday, 10 February 2014

2 years ago...

Today has crept up quickly, landing on me when I least expected it and requiring a last-minute, after-work panic visit to Pets at Home.  Of course Caesar doesn't know that this day is his 2 year adoption day and he doesn't know the progress he's made since the day we brought him home.  I, however, do.  And when I look at him, I feel proud of what we've achieved together and how far we've come from the 10th of February 2012 when I brought home a rather nervous, rather bustly mongrel from a local rescue centre.

Happy adoption day Caesar!


Music:  Sweet by Tamara Laurel

Link for those who can't view:

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Shooting Superman

Most dog owners acknowledge that a good recall, sit and stay is enough obedience to get them through.  Occasionally you can tag other commands onto that list such as 'go to bed' or 'go to the toilet' but largely the list of necessary commands is fairly small.  And, when speaking to a friend recently about her dog's training, she told me; "she comes back when I ask, she sits when I ask and she stays, I don't really need her to do anything else..."  This is true; if your dog does everything you need it to do, then why push it for more?

A different friend once told me that "with all of the ifs in the world, we could put Paris in a bottle..." But, my problem is that my brain is iffy.  By this, of course, I mean that it likes to ask the question 'what if...?'  This doesn't always serve me well as it often leads me to panic about things that might happen....but often don't anyway.  However, it is also the part of my brain that leads me to try new things; like sewing which can then lead to me getting hair brained ideas about quitting my day job to sew forever!

Anyway, the point I was getting at there is that I like to see how far I can push Caesar - if he can do that, then can he do this?  This has led me to discover some excellent tricks.  Now, I'm a total training novice - I've never had, nor trained, a dog before so these are not expert tips.  However, I thought it might be fun to explain how I taught two of my favourite tricks; "BANG" and "Superman".

Link for those who can't watch:

If on carpet, he can do a really convincing fall!

How to teach it:
1.  Make sure your "down" is great - do this by holding a treat to the floor - don't push your dog down.

2.  When the dog is in the down position, make a fist with the treat inside and gently guide the dog into a roll.  I used my other hand to support a little - again never force your dog into a roll - just guide by holding them gently as they move into position.

3.  Increase that to a roll --> stay - this is the hard part.  I did it by holding the treat in my hand and letting Caesar lick my fist until he had stayed long enough.

4.  This is the first command that you need to use.  Say "Bang!" and then using hand signals and a treat: down, roll, stay.
5.  Continue this until your dog automatically knows "bang" means down, roll, stay.
6.  I found that Caesar needed a few sessions to get all of this and, as he's the kind of dog that is OBSESSED by food then he quickly figured if he fell on his back from any position he would still get the treat which is why, when in a carpeted room, he actually looks as if he's been shot.

What does Superman Do?
Warning: I learnt at this point to be careful what hand signal you use to show that you would like your dog to do this.  The last thing you want is to reach for a paw and get two paws fly up and hit you in the face - yes that has happened to me.  Think about the signal that you use and don't use it for anything else - I accidentally used my 'stay' signal to teach Caesar to ballet dance.  That could be extremely interesting when he attempts his next Good Citizen award.

1. Make sure dog is in a calm comfortable sit.
2.  Ask for the dogs paw (this needs to be a previously trained trick.
3.  Do not hold dogs paw but allow them to rest it on you, gently moving it higher above the head.
4.  As soon as it's there, treat them lots! - Make sure the dog can get down at any time (don't hold their paws).
5.  Repeat using the word "superman".

This trick is simple to teach but requires a few training sessions.  Caesar now does his from a stand - he doesn't like doing it from a sit.  

So that's how to teach "Bang" and "Superman".  Once you've finished, you can combine for a hilarious Superman gets shot down from the sky combination!  Have fun!

Have you got any good trick tips?  Let me know if you try these - pictures would be fab! 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Capture it with a collar...

Sitting having my lunch today, a phone was passed along the line to me.  On it, a picture of a Labradoodle.  Everyone at work knows that I'm a crazy dog lady.  Sometimes, if I'm feeling a little touchy, I like to pretend that I'm offended by the fact.  But, in reality, I know it to be true.  I can talk to other dog ladies until I'm blue in the face and they're fed up of hearing about dogs and then I can still talk some more.

In fact, perhaps this blog is a way of venting that pent up dog discussion that I have inside...  The discussion that I hide because other people want to talk about babies and expensive jewelry and makeup and holidays.... And I sit there trying to feel at home in the conversation when in fact every aspect of it is alien to me.  I am very unphased by all of the above.

The Labradoodle in question belongs to a relative of one of my colleagues.  And, the anticipation of its arrival has lasted for some time.  "Ask them if they want a collar making!" I ventured, feeling proud of my recent achievement with my new sewing machine.
Gemma's new collar that I made.  I, yes me!! Impressed?

"They've already bought their collar."  Replied my friend, smiling.
I winced.  "Their collar?" I felt mortified.  Then, it occurred to me that perhaps most dogs don't have a wardrobe of collars as mine do.  Perhaps some dogs have only one...

My collar fetish began in the early days of Caesar's adoption.  It occurred to me that this was one way to do two things:
1) Make him look a little more friendly when he was acting like an idiot.
2) Show his personality a bit.

Caesar is a little wacky.  I hope that some time in a future life he will be reincarnated as a person and we will meet.  I imagine he would be the type of person that lots of people love even though more than sometimes he is a bit of an idiot.  A sort of Russell Brand of the dog world.

Anyhow, when Emma brought Tango round one day wearing an amazingly original skull collar I was jealous.  Why hadn't I found a collar that defined Caesar.  All he wore was a slightly pricey soft leather number with a capsule type affair to hold his details.  It was the most unique collar I could find and even then I'd spotted several other dogs wearing it already.  "Where did you get that?" I asked, green with envy.

Emma told me she had bought it at a show off a lady who had been selling hand made collars.  "Oh," I said, feeling a little deflated.  Did that mean that I couldn't get my hands on one?

A few weeks later, Emma offered me the contact details of someone else who made collars and I promptly made my decision on which to order.

Superman was Caesar's first hand made collar.  And it was paired with a cute star tag in burgundy red.

Then, for more formal occasions, I selected a red polka dog affair with matching bow tie...
Then came the Batman and Batgirl matching collars...

Then, Scooby Doo....

So, the first thing I decided to do when I got my new sewing machine was have a crack at making some things for Caesar.  Top of my list was a fleece coat, which was a little fiddlier than I had initially thought.  Once finished, though, I decided to experiment with making some collars of my own.

Standing at the local haberdashery, I felt underwhelmed.  Nothing there inspired me.  I wanted to make Caesar something cool and fun that defined him.  Eventually I went with a blue crisscross style that I felt was quite smart:

I wasn't content at that though, so I added a small hand made dickie-bow to the collar hoping that this would smarten up his look.  I feel quite pleased for a first attempt!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Caesar the king of the IKEA hack dog bed!

Over the past few weeks the bed time dilemma has gotten worse.  Caesar will lure me into a false sense of security by beginning the night on his own bed next to the radiator.  "Good," I'll think although I can't deny that I do miss our bedtime cuddles sometimes.  Then, a few hours later, Damien will come to bed.  In the hour following this, Caesar will decided that he'd rather be on our bed than his own and jump up onto our head/body/legs.  This morning I woke up face down on the pillow and he was sound asleep on my back!

Caesar has always loved his wonder he wants to get in bed on a night!

For some time now, I've been trying to find it within me to spend over £70 on an igloo style bed for Caesar.  As a nervous dog, I'd concluded that perhaps he would feel a little better if he was enclosed within a space rather than in the open.  And, an igloo should stay warmer therefore he wouldn't get cold and attempt to get into bed with us at 3am.  The beautiful dog igloo, details of which a friend gave to me after finding them a success with her own dogs, was made of faux leather and filled with sherpa fur.  It looked cosy and warm and with only one company seemingly making and selling such items, the price would need to be paid.

Warm enough Caesar?

Money isn't something that I have a lot of.  And, while I have enough for Damien, Caesar, Gemma and I to live comfortably together, forking out £70 for a dog bed was not going to go unnoticed in my bank account.  I deliberated, wondering what to do about it; on the one hand the bed looked comfortable and well made; it should last longer than some of his other beds which were cheaply bought and just as cheaply made.

Today I decided to make a rare trip over to IKEA to buy myself a nice unit for the dining room.  And, while there, I spotted something rather cool (and it wasn't a freakish cuddly toy in the shape of a carrot)!  Say hello to this rather fantastic medieval style tent!

(Image property of Inter IKEA Services B.V)
(Link to product)

Now before spotting this, I had spotted this other, rather mediocre tent, which, had I been anywhere other than IKEA would have done just fine.

(Image property of Inter IKEA Services B.V)
But once I had seen the medieval tent, complete with it's own little flag, I couldn't think of anything else.  Instantly, I had the urge to buy it - it would be like Caesar's own castle!  I picked one up and Damien burst out laughing!  "You can laugh now!" I told him, "...but you'll thank me when you've had a good nights sleep!"  A good nights sleep is a myth as far as I'm concerned.  I can't remember the last time that I had one.  Probably when I was on holiday and Caesar wasn't there!  Even then though my slumber was troubled by my cursed imagination picturing what he would be doing at that moment....what would he be destroying or eating that he shouldn't be?

Cute little flag!

I set the bed up as soon as I got home.  My immediate reaction was complete shock at how big it seemed now it was outside of a huge warehouse-like shop.  I started to wonder if the small green tent would have been enough but it was too late.  Downstairs, I could hear Caesar whimpering as I tore around, moving furniture to fit his castle into my newly designed bedroom.  I hadn't planned to have a large castle shaped tent in the corner and I had to admit my heart did sink a little when I realised the impact that it was going to have on the room.  Still, I thought, Damien's sister will be visiting in April and it will definitely give her children somewhere to play!  Once it has been fumigated, of course, as Caesar's bed carries with it a distinctly sweaty dog smell!

The bed seems a little bit bigger now it's in my lovely bedroom...

Inside the tent had more than enough space and I filled it with blankets, cushions, his bed and a few toys.  I hoped to make it like a miniature bedroom inside a bedroom for the little prince dog!

As soon as Caesar had finished his tea, he came bounding up the stairs to see what I had been doing.  He didn't know what to do first!  He jumped onto the bed and then bounced off and landed ON the tent!  After a short time, though, he realised how to get into the tent and ran in and out of it wildly.  Then he took his new teddy in with him.  And then, finally, he decided to lie down!

Caesar settled in his new house with his teddy.

I decided I would leave the curtains open to begin with just so that Caesar didn't feel trapped inside but, after a while, it became clear that he was quite comfortable with the house so, I climbed in with him and shut the curtains so that we were cuddled up in there together (I told you it was big)!

Finally, I climbed out, leaving Caesar lying on his bed.  And shut the curtain.  He seemed happy enough, though I have an inkling that he may still be keeping an eye on what is going on...

Has anyone else ever used something for their dog that wasn't intended for this use?  I'd love to know your dog hacks!  Leave a comment to share one.